As Vice-President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev to offer a message of support to Ukraine on Tuesday, the agreement reached last week to deescalate the situation there already appeared to be crumbling. The pro-Russian militants who seized buildings in ten eastern Ukrainian cities said they are not bound by the deal signed by Ukraine, the European Union, the U.S., and Russia, and now both sides are accusing each other of violating the pact. “As of today, the Russian side has shown no signal that it is ready to implement the Geneva accords,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday. “Illegal armed groups controlled by Russia continue to destabilize the situation in eastern Ukraine, preparing the ground for another stage of Russian military aggression.”
In a phone call on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to take concrete steps to comply with the agreement, such as publicly calling on the separatists to vacate government buildings in eastern Ukraine. According to the Russian account of the call, Lavrov said it’s up to the U.S. to “influence Kiev, not let hotheads there provoke a bloody conflict, and impel the current Ukrainian leadership to fulfill its obligations unflaggingly.”
The U.S. alleged on Monday that photos culled from social media sites prove that some troops in eastern Ukraine are Russian special forces. Gregory Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, warned that there will be tougher economic sanctions for Russia if they don’t take action soon. “There needs to be concrete results,” Pyatt said, adding that the U.S. will determine whether Russia is complying in “days, not weeks.” White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed that sentiment on Monday, saying, “If progress is not made in coming days, we will impose further costs.”
If Russia was moved by the latest round of U.S. threats, they didn’t show it. “Before putting forth ultimatums to us, demanding fulfillment of something within two-three days or otherwise be threatened with sanctions, we would urgently call on our American partners to fully recognize responsibility for those whom they brought to power and whom they are trying to shield, closing their eyes to the outrages created by this regime and by the fighters on whom this regime leans,” Lavrov responded.